Category Archives: Mariology

Dec 12 – Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas, Queen of Heaven & Earth

1531_Nuestra_Señora_de_Guadalupe_anagoria


-by Br Dominic Mary Verner, OP

The two women gazed at each other through the pane of bulletproof glass: one the Secretary of State of the currently most powerful nation on Earth, the other the maternal emissary and mother of the Universe’s Eternal Creator & Savior. Madam Secretary stood dressed in a smart red power suit; La Guadalupana was miraculously emblazoned on a humble peasant’s tilma. Unfortunately, their visit had to be short: Madam Secretary had an award banquet to attend in honor of her protection of abortion rights. She could not dawdle with the Virgin who had converted an Aztec nation to end child sacrifice. So she laid the pro-forma flowers at the foot of the tilma and, as if to encapsulate the irony of the encounter, she turned to the rector of the Basilica and asked the good monsignor to tell her who painted such a beautiful image.

No one should be faulted for not knowing what they have no reason to know, especially when it concerns something belonging to a faith which they do not possess. That being said, in her 2009 visit to Mexico City, somebody dropped the ball by failing to inform Madam Secretary about the history of the Lady to whom she was offering flowers. If she had even a cursory knowledge of that history, perhaps she would have paid more than lip service to that beautiful lady robed with the stars, with the moon under her feet.

The echo of Luther’s hammer against the Wittenberg church doors still resounded throughout Northern Europe when Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego. She was sent at a time when the Christian missionary efforts were bearing little fruit among a people loath to accept the religion of their conquerors. How were they to know that the love of Christ extended across the Atlantic when that love was accompanied by the Spanish sword and whip?

When Our Lord sent his mother as his emissary to the conquered Aztecs, she appeared as a mestiza woman, dark-skinned, with local features, a woman pregnant no doubt with a mestizo child. She came in a most fitting way to reveal the love which her Son had for them. With brown eyes lowered in humility, dark hair, and hands folded in intercessory prayer, she assured Juan Diego—and through him, his nation—with the words any distressed son or daughter longs to hear: “Am I not here . . . I who am your mother”?

If the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the miraculous image left on St. Juan Diego’s tilma tell us anything, it is that the mother of Our Lord is a most effective ambassador. As European kings and princes were abandoning the Church, leading millions to throw in their lot with the schismatics, halfway around the world Our Lady was leading a poor and humbled people into the Church in droves. The Lord of all nations sent His most beloved diplomat, His mother, to be the queen of a nation finally ready to receive His saving Gospel.

On October 12, 1945, Pope Pius XII proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe “Empress of the Americas,” placing “under her powerful patronage the purity and the integrity of the holy faith in the whole American continent.” Our Empress reigns with the maternal love which befits the mother of God. She is the patroness of the unborn, having crushed the head of the serpent Quetzecoatl and stemmed the tide of infant blood sacrificed on his altars. She is empress, emissary, mother, and queen, and in her powerful intercession we hope for the conversion of our nation and of all the Americas.

Upon hearing her honest question, the monsignor courteously gave the U. S. Secretary of State his solemn reply: “God.” God painted the image of Our Lady who gazed at her through the glass. What Madam Secretary made of this reply we cannot be sure. So many preconceptions, assumptions, and values would have to change to accept such an unexpected and disturbing claim. Something like that would have the power to convert a continent. Whatever her response may have been, she was observed a few minutes later standing before rows of vigil candles. Lighting a candle to the Patroness of the Unborn, the Empress of the Americas, Madam Secretary blew out the match, bowed her head, and hurried off to receive the Margaret Sanger award.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas, pray for us!

Love,
Matthew

Jun 27 – St Cyril of Alexandria, (376-444), Patriarch of Alexandria, Father & Doctor of the Church, Pillar & Defender of the Faith, A Man’s Man of Christian Love

st_cyril_alexandria

After taking a look at the life of St. Cyril, it’s easy to see him as a man who always came into a situation with both barrels blazing. Seriously, Cyril took no prisoners.

Cyril was born at Alexandria, Egypt. He was nephew of the patriarch of that city, Theophilus. Cyril received a classical and theological education at Alexandria and was ordained by his uncle.  He succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch of Alexandria on Theophilus’ death in 412.  Before Cyril became Patriarch, he had to survive a riot that ensued due to a rivalry for the Patriarchy with his rival, Timotheus.  Thus, Cyril followed his uncle in a position that had become powerful and influential, rivaling that of the Roman prefect.

When he became Patriarch of Alexandria in 412, he “assembled a mob” that plundered and closed the churches of the Novations1. Novations had been persecuting Christians in the area.  Cyril also drove out of Alexandria the Jews, who had formed a flourishing community there since Alexander the Great.  The Jews of Alexandria were also political backers of the Roman Prefect of Alexandria, governor of the Roman Diocese (political, not ecclesiastical) of Egypt. Expulsion from a territory was a secular power that belonged to the pagan Roman Prefect.  But the Jews had caused tumults and had massacred the Christians. Expelling their enemies may have been the only possible defense for the Christians.  The Roman Prefect of Egypt, Orestes, though was very angry at Cyril for usurping power that was his.  Cyril offered Orestes a Bible; a gesture which would mean Orestes’ acquiescence to Cyril’s religious authority and policy, which Orestes rejected.

Yes, you guessed it, a serious brawl ensued as a result of the conflict between Cyril and Orestes. 500 (yes, five hundred) monks came swinging out of the lower deserts of Egypt (Nitria) to defend Cyril. Can you imagine 500 men with big beards and worn-monastic habits storming into a fight against Orestes’ soldiers? One word comes to mind: Fortitude. One of the monks, Ammonius, actually beamed Orestes with a rock during the skirmish. Orestes had Ammonius tortured to death. Cyril actually honored the remains of the rock lobbing monk for a time.

Prefect Orestes enjoyed the political backing of Hypatia, a pagan female astronomer, philosopher and mathematician who had considerable moral authority in the city of Alexandria, and who had extensive influence. Indeed many students from wealthy and influential families came to Alexandria purposely to study privately with Hypatia, and many of these later attained high posts in government and the Church. Several Christians thought that Hypatia’s influence had caused Orestes to reject all reconciliatory offerings by Cyril. Modern historians think that Orestes had cultivated his relationship with Hypatia to strengthen a bond with the pagan community of Alexandria, as he had done with the Jewish one, to handle better the difficult political life of the Egyptian capital.  A Christian mob, however, led by a lector named Peter, took her from her chariot, dragged her to a church and tore her flesh with potsherds till she died, finally burning the pieces outside the city walls.  Cyril did not support this action and it caused him much embarrassment and political difficulty after the fact, but since this Peter was only a lector, and not a member of the clergy, Cyril could distance himself from this event.

Cyril, in league with Pope Celestine I, is most known for intellectually duking it out with Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople (present day Istanbul). At one point, the Emperor (Theodosius II) had both Nestorius and Cyril arrested. The emperor, however, cut Cyril loose after Papal Legates showed up on his doorstep saying that Pope Celestine endorsed Cyril’s condemnation of Nestorius.

So what was the big deal with Nestorius? Well, he promoted the heresy of Nestorianism, which says that “Mary was not the Mother of God, Theotokos(Θεοτόκος), since Christ was Divine and not human, and consequently she should not have the word theotokos (God-bearer) applied to her.”  Dyophysitism.  (Caution to the reader:  there are LOTS of “physitisms”. Don’t ask.  It gets very long, shades of grey, & complicated!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂  And you thought ecumenism was easy?)

Nestorianism goes, well, “out-of-its-way” to overly emphasize the disunion, or, at best, a very loose union between the human and Divine natures of Jesus, preferring the term Christotokos, in terms of whom Mary gave birth to; arguing that it was only the humanity of Christ which was born at the Incarnation, and not the Deity.  Conversely, the implication, at least, with Theotokos, possibly, Nestorians would argue, was it suggesting the Divine nature was also somehow created at the Incarnation?, which they could not stand.  However, Theotokos, properly understood, contains none of these objected to and objectionable connotations.  Nestorianism is a clear heresy from orthodox Christianity, negating the hypostatic, ὑπόστασις, union.  (How’s that for ten cent words?  Church techno speak! It helps to know a little Greek, Latin, & Hebrew.  It does.    Nicean orthodox Christianity says “True God & True Man”, in which it means:  two unique, full, complete natures, perfectly united in one person.  Dear Reverend Fathers on this distribution, how did I do?  Whew!  Did I pass?    These distinctions are NOT trivial, meaningless, nor unimportant.  Depending on how the Church defines the nature of Christ, it gives a whole new reading, meaning, & coloring to the interpretation of Scripture, tough enough as it is.  Better get it right!  Better!  🙂

Cyril was the bedrock for the third general Council of Ephesus in 431, which declared Nestorianism a heresy. Oddly enough, a group of bishops that sided with Nestorius convened their own council after the one at Ephesus and deposed Cyril (this is the point where Cyril and Nestorius got arrested by the Emperor).

The exegetical works of St. Cyril are very numerous. The seventeen books “On Adoration in Spirit and in Truth” are an exposition of the typical and spiritual nature of the Old Law. The Glaphyra or “brilliant”, Commentaries on Pentateuch are of the same nature. Long explanations of Isaiah and of the minor Prophets give a mystical interpretation, after the Alexandrian manner. Only fragments are extant of other works on the Old Testament, as well as of expositions of Matthew, Luke, and some of the Epistles, but of that of St. Luke much is preserved in a Syriac version. Of St. Cyril’s sermons and letters the most interesting are those which concern the Nestorian controversy. Of a great apologetic work in the twenty books against Julian the Apostate ten books remain. Among his theological treatises we have two large works and one small one on the Holy Trinity, and a number of treatises and tracts belonging to the Nestorian controversy.

agora-cyril
-Cyril, from the 2009 film “Agora”

“By nature, each one of us is enclosed in his own personality, but supernaturally, we are all one. We are made one body in Christ, because we are nourished by One Flesh. As Christ is indivisible, we are all one in Him. Therefore, He asked His Father “that they may all be One as We also are one.” – Saint Cyril of Alexandria

“That anyone could doubt the right of the holy Virgin to be called the Mother of God fills with astonishment. Surely she must be the Mother of God if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, and she gave birth to him! Our Lord’s disciples may not have used those exact words, but they delivered to us the belief those words enshrine, and this has also been taught us by the holy fathers. The divinely inspired Scriptures affirm that the Word of God was made flesh, that is to say, he was united to a human body endowed with a rational soul. He undertook to help the descendants of Abraham, fashioning a body for himself from a woman and sharing our flesh and blood, to enable us to see in him not only God, but also, by reason of this union, a man like ourselves. It is held, therefore, that there is in Emmanuel two entities, divinity and humanity. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ is nonetheless one, the one true Son, both God and man; not a deified man on the same footing as those who share the divine nature by grace, but true God who for our sake appeared in human form. We are assured of this by Saint Paul’s declaration: “When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law and to enable us to be adopted as sons.” – from a letter by Saint Cyril of Alexandria

But the biggest reason why St. Cyril of Alexandria is a ‘Trooper’ is his doctrine, which has been quoted by multiple Church councils—Cyril has the title Doctor of the Church. Here is an excerpt from his book on the Divine Motherhood of Mary:

“In the third book of his work on the holy and consubstantial Trinity, our father Athanasius, of glorious memory, several times refers to the holy Virgin as “Mother of God.” I cannot resist quoting his own words: “As I have often told you, the distinctive mark of holy Scripture is that it was written to make a twofold declaration concerning our Savior; namely, that He is and has always been God, and that for our sake in these latter days He took flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and became man.”

Prayer in Honor of Mary, Mother of God

“Hail, Mary, Mother of God, venerable treasure of the whole universe, lamp that is never extinguished, crown of virginity, support of the true faith, indestructible temple, dwelling of Him whom no place can contain, O Mother and Virgin! Through you all the holy Gospels call blessed the One whom comes in the name of the Lord.

Hail, Mother of God. You enclosed under your heart the infinite God whom no space can contain. Through you the Most Holy Trinity is adored and glorified, the priceless cross is venerated throughout the universe. Through you the heavens rejoice, and the angels and archangels are filled with gladness. Through you the demons are banished, and the tempter fell from heaven. Through you the fallen human race is admitted to heaven.

Hail, Mother of God. Through you kings rule, and the only-begotten Son of God has become a star of light to those who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.” -Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor

Love,
Matthew

1Novation was born about the year 200. He was a man of considerable learning, apparently educated in literary composition; the first writer to use Latin in the Church. His immediate rival in Rome, Bishop Cornelius, spoke of him sarcastically as ” that maker of dogmas, that champion of ecclesiastical learning”.  During the persecutions of emperor Decius in mid third century, Novatian took the position that those who had stopped practicing Christianity, the “Lapsi”, during the persecutions, to save themselves, could not be accepted back into the Church even if they repented and that the only way to reenter the church would be by re-baptism. Cornelius and Cyprian of Carthage did not believe in the need for re-baptism. Instead they thought that the sinners should only need to show contrition and true repentance to be welcomed back into the church.

During the election of the bishop of Rome in 251, Novatian opposed Cornelius because he was too lax in accepting the return of Christians who had lapsed during the persecutions. His party then consecrated him as a rival bishop (antipope) to Cornelius. He announced throughout the empire his election, as had Cornelius, as both parties appointed bishops and priests in cities where the incumbent favored his rival, thus creating a widespread schism in the Church.

By the end of 251, Bishop Cornelius assembled a council of sixty bishops that condemned and excommunicated Novation apparently over the legitimacy of his claim to the ecclesiastical throne of Rome. It was only later that Novation began to be called a heretic and this appeared to be over the question of the Church having the power to grant absolution in certain cases.  Novatian is known for his writing of which only two have survived, the De Cibis Judaicus and De Trintate (On the Trinity), an interpretation of the early church doctrine on the Trinity which is his most important work.  Novationists called themselves καθαροι (“katharoi”/Cathari) or “Puritans” reflecting their desire not to be identified with what they considered the lax practices of a corrupted Catholic Church. They went so far as to re-baptize their own converts. Because Novatianists (including Novatian) did not submit to the bishop of Rome, they were labeled by Rome as schismatics.

Novations were Montanists, another name for a heretical group, who took their name from a priest and Anti-pope, Montanus.  Montanus preached that those who fell from grace were out of the church forever, as opposed to the orthodox position that by sincere contrition and repentance the fallen might be readmitted. In addition they believed that the value of the sacraments depended on the purity and worthiness of the priest administering the rites. In time they merged with the Donatists who sprang up in Carthage, 4th century in a split with Rome over the failure of a their man to win the bishop’s seat.  The Novations also held second marriages were not valid.

Apr 16 – St Bernadette (Soubirous) of Lourdes, (1844-1879), Visionary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Bernadette_Soubirous

Bring flow’rs of the fairest,
Bring flow’rs of the rarest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale;
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.

The words that introduce the film The Song of Bernadette, 1943, are: “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”

Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes on 7th. January 1844 to François Soubirous and Louise Castérot. Francois, a miller, was handicapped by an eye injury ten years later and was then accussed of stealing bread from a local baker, causing him to be jailed for eight days in “the Cachot”. A drought left the surrounding areas with no wheat harvest and a cholera epidemic took many lives. Bernadette was infected and it left its mark on her. In 1857 extreme poverty left the family depending on a relative for accommodation, a small room of just 16 square metres. She experienced the deep love her parents had for each other and all the children but was isolated by the locals because of their circumstances and her simplicity. Her sickness affected her schooling and despite being 14 years of age she was not allowed to receive her First Holy Communion and was unable to read or write.

In November of 1857 she was sent to Bartrès, the little village close to Lourdes to work on the farm. However, her desire to receive First Holy Communion brought her back to the village in January of 1858. While out walking with her sister and a friend near Massabielle, Bernadette was unable to keep up with them and had removed her socks and shoes to cross the stream and follow when she heard a gust of wind and looking up saw the ‘lady dressed in white with a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot’. This was the first of the apparitions, she was to receive 18 apparitions until the last one on July 16th. During the apparitions she prayed the Rosary with ‘the lady’ and conversed with her. On Feb 19th Bernadette lit a candle at the grotto, a tradition that continues to this days with many millions of candles lit each year.

By Sunday Feb 21st, crowds were beginning to follow her and Bernadette’s first of many official questionings started by Police Commissioner, Jacomet. Her eighth visit with the lady on Wednesday 24th, February saw the first of the messages being given: The message of the Lady was: “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!” The following day the lady told her to drink from the spring, pointing out a spot, which to Bernadette was only a muddy area. Bernadette did as she was told and the crowd was appalled to see her digging up the mud and placing it at her mouth. Her repsonse to the questioning crowd was ‘It is for sinners’. The small spring begins to flow from the spot and a local girl, a friend of Bernadette’s, plunges her dislocated arm into the spring. It is miraculously healed, the first of many to take place in those early days and so many since.

On Tuesday 2nd, March the lady gives Bernadette a message for the Parish Priest, Abbé Peyramale, to build a chapel at the grotto. The Priest, still not believing, only wanted to know the name of the lady. On Thursday 25th, March, the Feast of the Annunciation, the lady tells Bernadette “QUE SOY ERA IMMACULADA CONCEPCIOU.” – “I am the Immaculate Conception”. This theological expression had been  assigned to the Blessed Virgin just four years earlier, in 1854, as Pope Pius IX declared this a truth of the Catholic Faith (a dogma). Bernadette could not have known this and her words left the Parish Priest puzzled.

Bishop of Tarbes, the local Bishop, started a Church enquiry almost immediately and four years later declared the Apparitions as authentic in the name of the Church. The investigations showed many who were sick being cured by means not able to be explained by traditional medical methods. The Bishop, in his declaration concluded: “There is thus a direct link between the cures and the Apparitions, the Apparitions are of divine origin, since the cures carry a divine stamp. But what comes from God is the truth! As a result, the Apparition, calling herself the Immaculate Conception, that Bernadette saw and heard, is the Most Holy Virgin Mary! Thus we write: the finger of God is here.”

In 1866 Bernadette joined Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers and received the name Sister Marie-Bernard. She died in the convent at 35 years of age on April 16th 1879.  Her body remains visible and incorrupt.

“Nothing is anything more to me; everything is nothing to me, but Jesus: neither things nor persons, neither ideas nor emotions, neither honor nor sufferings. Jesus is for me honor, delight, heart and soul.” – Saint Bernadette

“You must receive God well; give Him a loving welcome, for then He has to pay us rent.” – Saint Bernadette

“The more I am crucified, the more I rejoice.” – Saint Bernadette Soubirous

“I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river, but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them. Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads. At this I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things, and I put my hands into the fold of my dress where my rosary was. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but for the life of me I couldn’t manage it, and my hand just fell down. Then the lady made the sign of the cross herself, and at the second attempt I managed to do the same, though my hands were trembling. Then I began to say the rosary while the lady let her beads clip through her fingers, without moving her lips. When I stopped saying the Hail Mary, she immediately vanished. I asked my two companions if they had noticed anything, but they said no. Of course, they wanted to know what I was doing, and I told them that I had seen a lady wearing a nice white dress, though I didn’t know who she was. I told them not to say anything about it, and they said I was silly to have anything to do with it. I said they were wrong, and I came back next Sunday, feeling myself drawn to the place…. The third time I went, the lady spoke to me and asked me to come every day for fifteen days. I said I would and then she said that she wanted me to tell the priests to build a chapel there. She also told me to drink from the stream. I went to the Gave, the only stream I could see. Then she made me realize she was not speaking of the Gave, and she indicated a little trickle of water close by. When I got to it I could only find a few drops, mostly mud. I cupped my hands to catch some liquid without success, and then I started to scrape the ground. I managed to find a few drops of water, but only at the fourth attempt was there sufficient for any kind of a drink. The lady then vanished and I went back home. I went back each day for fifteen days, and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there. I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally, with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven, she told me she was the Immaculate Conception. During the fifteen days she told me three secrets, but I was not to speak about them to anyone, and so far I have not.” – from a letter by Saint Bernadette

“After all, if I am tired, even if I am exhausted, I can rest in the heart of Jesus.” -St. Bernadette

O God, protector and lover of the humble, You bestowed on Your servant, Bernadette, the favor of the vision of Our Lady, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, and of speech with her. Grant that we, through Your mercy, may behold You in Heaven. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation

V. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.

R. Ecce Ancilla Domini. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum.

annunciation-tanner
– “The Annunciation”, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

raymond_snyder
-by Br. Raymund Snyder, O.P.

“Pope John Paul II chose to conclude his 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio, by comparing the discipline of philosophy to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He says that “between the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and the vocation of true philosophy there is a deep harmony.” At first glance this seems like a stretch. Why, in a document addressing the relationship between faith and reason, would he conclude with the Blessed Virgin Mary? Is this just a pious invocation?

In fact, John Paul’s comparison is not only well founded, but deeply fitting. He grounds it on two fundamental similarities, the first of which has to do with the notion of offering:

Just as the Virgin was called to offer herself entirely as human being and as woman that God’s Word might take flesh and come among us, so too philosophy is called to offer its rational and critical resources that theology, as the understanding of faith, may be fruitful and creative.

Mary offered herself up completely by embracing her divine maternity. In a similar way, philosophy is called to make a complete offering of all that it is. As the systematic investigation of truth by the use of human reason, it surrenders itself to theology, a discipline greater than itself. Using the language of the Annunciation, John Paul draws out the traditional analogy between Mary as the “handmaid of the Lord” and philosophy as the “handmaid of theology.” To reach its true goal, philosophy must make its own “fiat.”

Secondly, just as Mary is exalted as the result of her surrender, so too philosophy is elevated:

Just as in giving her assent to Gabriel’s word, Mary lost nothing of her true humanity and freedom, so too when philosophy heeds the summons of the Gospel’s truth its autonomy is in no way impaired. Indeed, it is then that philosophy sees all its enquiries rise to their highest expression.

Mary’s surrender to God did not diminish her in any way; rather, it allowed God to ennoble her. In an analogous way, the truth of the faith does not constrain or inhibit rational inquiry, but elevates it. This is an important point since there are many who think that faith threatens the project of philosophy, or of scientific inquiry in general. In reality, however, faith does not hinder the pursuit of philosophy any more than God hindered the life of Mary. Far from “tainting” human knowledge, “faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds,” as the First Vatican Council affirmed.

To speak about the discipline of philosophy as such is to speak about individual persons engaged in a search for answers to the perennial questions of life. This search extends to all human beings insofar as they ask questions such as “Why do I exist?” and “What makes me happy?” As a model in our philosophical search, John Paul presents us with Mary, someone we may not have expected. To imitate her is to surrender our minds to God—and to do so with the confidence that they will be raised up.”

Blessed Annunciation!
Love,
Matthew

Alma Redemptoris Mater – Loving Mother of our Savior

In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Divine Office (the daily prayer of the Church), after Compline, the last prayers of the day, a Marian hymn is sung.  I know the Dominican Salve Regina by heart.  After the last note of this hymn is sung, holy silence is imposed, even when emptying dishwashers, as novices are, by holy obedience, required to do.  It’s not all glamour.  Trust me.    Holy silence lasts until Lauds, which begins with “Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise!”

When my parents came to visit, they joined us for Office.  For the Marian hymn, every night we darkened the entire chapel with a single candle burning before a small white statue of the Blessed Mother for us to focus on as we chanted the Salve Regina.  I remember when the lights came back on my parents’ eyes were as big a saucers.  I tell myself it was the coming into the light which caused this.  I tell myself.

The Alma Redemptoris Mater is one of the four primary Marian hymns sung after Compline.   Hermannus Contractus (Herman the Cripple) (1013–1054) is said to have authored the hymn based on the writings of Ss. Fulgentius, Epiphanius, and Irenaeus of Lyon.  It is mentioned in “The Prioress’s Tale “, one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Formerly, it was recited at compline only from the first Sunday in Advent until the Feast of the Purification (February 2).

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti, Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti, Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

From the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve:

V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Oremus Gratiam tuam quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem ejus et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

V. Post Partum Virgo inviolata permansisti. R. Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Oremus Deus, qui salutis aeternae beatae Mariae virginitate foecunda humano generi praemia praestitisti: tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus, Auctorem vitae suscipere Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Amen.

Loving Mother of our Savior, hear thou thy people’s cry Star of the deep and Portal of the sky! Mother of Him who thee from nothing made. Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid: Oh, by what joy which Gabriel brought to thee, thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.

From the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve:

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary R. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Let us pray. Pour forth we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may, by His passion and cross, be brought to the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:

V. After childbirth, O Virgin, thou didst remain inviolate. R. O Mother of God, plead for us.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech You, that we may experience her intercession for us, by whom we deserved to receive the Author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.

Listen:

Wyoming Catholic College choir does beautiful renditions of this hymn.

Male & female choir with deep baritone and bass male voices, up-tempo, and the joyful zeal of youth.  VERY worth the five bucks if you are looking to beef up your Christmas music collection.  Trust me.  I have it on my iPhone with all my other weirdo MPM music.

Raphael-Sanzio-Madonna-and-Child-The-Tempi-Madonna (1)
-Madonna Tempi, by Raffaello Sanzio (1483–1520), 1508, Oil on wood, 75 × 51 cm (29.5 × 20.1 in), Alte Pinakothek

Love,
Matthew

Nov 7 – Blessed John Duns Scotus, OFM, (1265-1308), Defender of the Immaculate Conception

You may have heard of the Knights Templar in scandal-invecting modern fiction such as The DaVinci Code, et al.  Blessed John was a contemporary and was affected by the intrigues of King Phillip the Fair of France.  We fear, through superstition, whenever the 13th of a month falls on a Friday thanks and due to Phillip’s persecution, unjustified, of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307.

His most famous victim, Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, cried out from the flames as he was burning March 18, 1314 about Pope Clement, who had acquiesced to Philip’s avaricious and power-seeking threats and demands, and Philip, who owed the Templars A LOT of money!  Why pay them if you can just kill them and seize their property? The Templar Grand Master cried out from the flames that Pope Clement and King Philip would soon meet him before God:  “Dieu sait qui a tort et a pëché. Il va bientot arriver malheur à ceux qui nous ont condamnés à mort” = “God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death.”  Pope Clement died only a month later, and King Philip died in a hunting accident before the end of the year.

KingPhilipIV

philippe_iv_le_bel

-King Phillip IV (the Fair = pretty, not just), 1268-1314

Blessed John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan priest and theologian of the 13th century, next to St. Bonaventure, is perhaps the most important and influential theologian in the history of the Franciscan Order. He was the founder of the Scotistic School in Theology, and until the time of the French Revolution his thought dominated the Roman Catholic faculties of theology in nearly all the major universities of Europe. He is chiefly known for his theology on the Absolute Kingship of Jesus Christ, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his philosophic refutation of the evolution of morality.  The doctrines for which he is best known are the “univocity of being,” that existence is the most abstract concept we have, applicable to everything that exists; the formal distinction, a way of distinguishing between different aspects of the same thing; and the idea of haecceity, the property supposed to be in each individual thing that makes it an individual. Scotus also developed a complex argument for the existence of God.

Bl. John Duns Scotus was born in Duns, Berwickshire, Scotland, around 1265. He was immediately baptized after birth and was named after St. John the Evangelist. He received a solid Christian formation from home and from the parish priest. He frequented the Cistercian Abbey of Melrose for his catechism lessons. There, he absorbed the ardent love for the Mother of God which St. Bernard had left as a patrimony to the Cistercians.

As a little boy, Bl. John suffered very much from the obtuseness of his intellect. He wanted to read, to write and to study the profundity of the truths of the Faith, but his mind just could not manage to learn or understand anything. By means of with prayers and sighs, he had recourse to Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, asking her to heal his dullness so that he could advance in his studies. Mary appeared to him and granted his request. Going back to school, the “pea-brained” could only astonish his classmates and teachers. Bl. John resolved to make use of the heavenly gift of sublime intelligence, above all, to glorify the sweet and glorious Virgin Mary, treasurer of every good.

In Roman Catholicism, the epithet (in its positive sense, as in a title) “the Seat of Wisdom” or “Throne of Wisdom” (Sedes Sapientiae) is identified with one of many devotional titles for the Mother of God. In ancient times, authority “sat” and everyone else stood.  That is why thrones were important.  The only one(s) who sat were the most important ones in the room.  We still carry this concept in our language as in “chairman”.  In church or in Roman court, the judge sat, i.e. “all rise!”, and celebrants in church sat, parishioners stood.  Universal pews in church are a recent Protestant invention.  Thank you!  You can still see evidence of this in the great cathedrals of Europe where impermanent wooden benches occupy the space previously for the standing congregation.

The phrase, “Seat of Wisdom”, which was characterized in the 11th and 12th centuries, by St Peter Damian and Guibert de Nogent as likening Mary to the Throne of Solomon, refers to her status as a vessel of the Incarnation, carrying the Holy Child. As the phrase associates the Blessed Virgin with glory and with teaching, Madonna-images in this tradition are especially popular in Catholic imagery.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom

In Christian iconography, Sedes Sapientiae (“The Throne of Wisdom”) is an icon of the Mother of God in majesty. When the Virgin is depicted in sedes sapientiae icons and sculptural representations, she is seated on a throne, with the Christ Child on her lap.  This type of madonna-image, appeared in a wide range of sculptural and, later, painted images in Western Europe, especially about 1200.

In these representations, some structural elements of the throne invariably appear, even if only handholds and front legs. For hieratic purposes, the Virgin’s feet often rest on a low stool. Later, Gothic sculptures of the type are more explicitly identifiable with the Throne of Solomon, where:  “…two lions stood, one at each hand. And twelve little lions stood upon the six steps on the one side and on the other.” (I Kings 10: 18–20, repeated at II Chronicles 9: 17–19)  The Sedes Sapientiae icon also appeared in illuminated manuscripts, and Romanesque frescoes and mosaics, and was represented on seals.

Presbyter_Martinus_Madonna_als_Sedes_Sapientiae

-Madonna as Seat of Wisdom, January, 1199, poplar wood, from the Camaldolese abbey in Borgo San Sepolcro near Arezzo, Italy.  The inscription reads, in part, “On the mother’s bosom shines the wisdom of the Father.”

At the age of 15, Bl. John entered the novititate of the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans) at Dumfries, in the Kingdom of Scotland. There he made praiseworthy progress day by day in piety and in seraphic virtue. After a year he consecrated himself to God by the religious profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He was then sent for his studies in various theological schools of the Order. He was ordained a priest by Msgr. Oliver Sutton, Bishop of Lincoln, England, on March 17, 1291, at the church of St. Andrew of the Monks of Cluny. After his ordination, he began a series of travels between England and France to pursue advanced philosophical and theological studies.

The Blessed Virgin Appears to Bl. John

During the night of Christmas, 1299 at the Oxford Convent, Bl. John, immersed in his contemplation of the adorable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, was rapt in ecstasy. The Blessed Mother appeared to him and placed on his arms the Child Jesus who kissed and embraced him fondly. This was perhaps the occasion which inspired Bl. John to write so profoundly and fluently on the absolute primacy of Christ and the reason for the Incarnation. Christ’s Incarnation, which is decreed from all eternity even apart from the Redemption, is the supreme created manifestation of God’s love.

Bl. John at the University of Oxford, England

Duns_Scotus_plaque_University_Church_Oxford

-plaque, University Church, Oxford University, honoring Bl John Duns Scotus, OFM

After about four years of teaching at Oxford and Cambridge, at the end of 1301, Bl. John returned to Paris. He was granted his bachelor’s degree in theology. Later, on the vigil of receiving his doctorate, he had to leave France suddenly, to return to England. Philip, the Fair, in a disgraceful quarrel with Pope Boniface VIII demanded all clerics, nobles religious, bishops and the University of Paris to appeal to the Council against the Pope. Bl. John Duns Scotus, among the few members of the faculty, refused to accede to the wishes of the King, who wanted to tax the Church to finance his war with England, and chose the way of exile, sometime between the 25th and 28th of June 1308.

After a year, the situation abated and Bl. John was back again at the University of Paris where he received the doctorate in theology and thus inaugurated his official professorship which was to lead him to singular glory among the great medieval scholastics. Soon the fame of his genius and learning spread abroad and students came in great numbers to attend the lectures of the new master. On account of his habit of making refined distinctions during theologic argumentation, the title “Subtle Doctor”(Doctor Subtilis) was conferred on him by his contemporaries.

Rodulphus wrote of him: “There was nothing so recondite, nothing so abstruse that his keen mind could not fathom and clarify; nothing so knotty, that he like another Oedupus, could not unravel, nothing so fraught with difficulty or enveloped in darkness that his genius could not expound.” Another author wrote: “He described the Divine Nature as if he had seen God; the celestial spirits as if he had been an angel; the happiness of the future state as if he had enjoyed them; and the ways of Providence as if he had penetrated into its secrets.”

Bl. John’s Defense of the Immaculate Conception

It was also in Paris that Bl. John came to be called as the “Marian Doctor” after he championed the privilege of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. In England, Bl. John taught the truth of this Marian privilege without any opposition. But at Paris the situation was reversed. The academic body of the University admitted only the purification of Mary in the womb of Her mother St. Anne, like St. John the Baptist.

Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Parisian Masters, were not able to solve the problem of the universality of original sin and of the efficacy of Christ’s Redemption. They thought that even the Blessed Virgin Mary was included in this universality, and therefore subject to contract the original stain even if only for an instant, so that she may also be redeemed.

Scotus in his attempt to introduce and teach a theological position different from that upheld by the university, had to appear in a public dispute before the whole academic body, at the risk of expulsion from the university if he failed to defend his doctrine. Bl. John Scotus prepared himself for the event in prayer and recollection and in total confidence to the Immaculate Virgin, the Seat of Wisdom.

When the fixed day of the dispute arrived, on leaving the convent, he passed before a statue of Our Lady as we might pass before the photo of a loved one and recall them to mind, and with suppliant voice entreated her: “Allow me to praise You, O Most Holy Virgin; give me strength against your enemies.” Our Lady responded with a prodigious visible sign: the head of the statue moved and bowed slightly before him. It was as if to say: “Yes I will give you all the strength you need.”

Two Papal legates presided over the dispute. Then with powerful dialectic and with deep and subtle reasoning, Bl. Scotus refuted all the objections of the learned men in attendance, undermining the foundation of every argument contrary to Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Bl. John Scotus pointed out: “The Perfect Redeemer, must in some case, have done the work of redemption most perfectly, which would not be, unless there is some person, at least, in whose regard, the wrath of God was anticipated and not merely appeased.” Bl. John triumphed. From that day the University of Paris took up the same cause to defend this privilege of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The following hymn is a Christian hymn from the 4th century AD.  It is one of the five antiphons for the psalms of Second Vespers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec 8, nine months before the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, or the day Mary’s birthday is celebrated in the Church, Sep 8.  It takes some text from the deutero-canonical book of Judith, and other text from Song of Songs (Solomon), specifically 4:7.

Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tota pulchra es, Maria.

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honor to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary.

Bl. John’s Death and Beatification

Bl. John Duns Scotus had to leave the university at Paris one more time, partly for some political reasons and partly because some doubts had been cast on his theology by opponents. The Franciscan Minister General sent Scotus to Cologne, Germany, where he lectured for some time in the Franciscan house of studies until his untimely death on 8th November, 1308, barely 43 years of age. He was called “blessed” almost immediately after his death.

Bl John Duns Scotus is buried in the Church of the Franciscans in Cologne, Germany. His sarcophagus bears the Latin inscription: “Scotia me genuit. Anglia me suscepit. Gallia me docuit. Colonia me tenet. = “Scotland brought me forth. England sustained me. France taught me. Cologne holds me.”  According to an old tradition, Scotus was believed eventually to have been buried alive following his lapse into a coma, a common hazard until modern times, i.e. Edgar Allen Poe.

Through the centuries his tomb has been visited by large numbers of the faithful and public veneration has been offered to him in the dioceses of Edinburgh, Scotland, Nola, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, as well as throughout the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans).

The Dunce Cap

dunce_cap

The word “dunce” comes from the name of John Duns Scotus, a Scholastic, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholasticism ,whose followers were called “duns” or “dunsmen”. Duns Scotus wrote treatises on grammar, logic, and metaphysics which were widely used as textbooks in the medieval British universities. As the English Renaissance began and the new learning superseded Duns Scotus’ theories, his adherents remained loyal. The word “dunce” then began to be used by humanists to ridicule the Scholastics, gradually acquiring its modern meaning.

Frequently the ‘dunce’ was made to stand in the corner (I remember having to do this, sans the cap), facing the wall as the result of some bad behavior, usually rudeness or mean threatening actions. Depending on the teacher, they might have to stand for as long as half an hour and throwers of spitballs or pulling on a girl’s hair (Heaven!:)  could prompt the measure.   Class clowns were frequently admonished with the dunce cap.  Who?  Me?  C’est moi.

Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception & Beatification of John Duns Scotus

In 1854, Pope Pius IX solemnly declared that the Marian doctrine of Bl. John , was a correct expression of the faith of the Apostles: “at the first moment of Her conception, Mary was preserved free from the stain of original sin, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ.”  The seal of the Church’s approval was also placed on Bl. John’s doctrine on the universal primacy of Christ when the feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925. On March 20, 1992 Bl. John Duns Scotus was beatified by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Bl. John Duns Scotus, “The minstrel of the Word Incarnate” and “Defender of Mary’s Immaculate Conception” is presented by Pope John Paul II to our age “wealthy of human, scientific and technological resources, but in which many have lost the sense of faith and lead lives distant from Christ and His Gospel,” as “a Teacher of thought and life.” For the Church, Bl John is “an example of fidelity to the revealed truth, of effective, priestly, and serious dialogue in search for unity.” It was also the Holy Father’s hope that “Bl John’s spirit and memory enlighten with the very light of Christ the trials and hope of our society.”

Blessed-John-Duns-Scotus

-Bl John Duns Scotus

Intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, is often wisely sought out by students.  You know of my particular sympathy/affection for students, especially the ones who have to work a little, or a lot, harder for satisfactory results.  God does work miracles!  Deo gratias!  It’s a miracle! (With a little help from humane professors!)

Prayer of Students to Mary, Seat of Wisdom

Under your patronage, dear Mother, and calling on the mystery of your Immaculate Conception, I desire to pursue my studies and my literary works: I hereby solemnly declare that I am giving myself to these studies chiefly with the following goal: that I may the better contribute to the glory of God and to the promotion of your veneration among men. I ask you, therefore, most loving Mother, who are the Seat of Wisdom, to bless my work in your loving-kindness. I also promise with true affection and a willing spirit, as it is right that I should do, to ascribe all the good that shall come to me from my studies, wholly to your intercession for me in God’s holy presence.

Amen.

Consecration of Students to Mary, Seat of Wisdom

O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, so many persons of common intellect have made, through your intercession, admirable progress in their studies.
I hereby choose you as guardian and patron of my studies. I humbly ask you to obtain for me the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that from now on I could understand more quickly, retain more readily, and express myself more fluently.  May the example of my life serve to honor you and your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving for the wisdom Blessed John Duns Scotus

Heavenly Father, you filled Bl. John Duns Scotus with wisdom, and through his life and teaching gave us a witness of Your Incarnate love. May we come to understand more deeply what he taught so that we may live in ever growing charity.  Amen.

Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed John Duns Scotus

O Most High, Almightily and gracious Lord, Who exalts the humble and confounds the proud of heart, grant us the great joy of seeing Blessed John Duns Scotus canonized. He honored Your Son with the most sublime praises; he was the first to successfully defend the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; he lived in heroic obedience to the Holy Father, to the Church and to the Seraphic Order. O most holy Father, God of Infinite Love, hear, we beseech You, our humble prayer, thorough the merits of Your Only-Begotten Son and His Mother, the Gate of Heaven, Seat of Wisdom, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“The learned will shine like the brilliance of the firmament,
and those who train many in the way of justice
will sparkle like the stars for all eternity.”
-Daniel 12:3

Love,
Matthew

Oct 7 – Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary/Our Lady of Victory

Victory-o1

Originally celebrated liturgically as Our Lady of Victory, Pope St. Pius V established this feast in 1573. The purpose was to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto—a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716.

The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a galley fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of the Republic of Venice, the Papacy (under Pope Pius V), Spain (including Naples, Sicily and Sardinia), the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller and others, decisively defeated the main fleet of Ottoman war galleys.

The five-hour battle was fought at the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece, where the Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto met the Holy League forces, which had come from Messina, on the morning of Sunday, 7 October. Their victory gave the Holy League temporary control over the Mediterranean, protected Rome from invasion, and prevented the Ottomans from advancing into Europe. This last major naval battle fought solely between rowing vessels was one of the world’s decisive battles “in history, inasmuch as ‘after Lepanto the pendulum swung back the other way and the wealth began to flow from East to West, a pattern that continues to this day'”, as well “as a ‘crucial turning point in the ongoing conflict between the Middle East and Europe, which has not yet completely been resolved.'” -Serpil Atamaz Hazar, “Review of Confrontation at Lepanto: Christendom vs. Islam,” The Historian 70.1 (Spring 2008): 163.

Fernando_Bertelli,_Die_Seeschlacht_von_Lepanto,_Venedig_1572,_Museo_Storico_Navale_(550x500)
– by Fernando Bertelli, Die Seeschlacht von Lepanto, Venedig 1572, Museo Storico Navale, (550×500), this particular painting occupies a prominent position at one end of the Hall of Maps, in the Vatican Museums, Rome.

The engagement was a crushing defeat for the Ottomans, who had not lost a major naval battle since the fifteenth century.  In total, the Turks lost some 210 vessels – 80 sunk and 130 captured.  The Turks lost thirty thousand men, with another 3500 captured.  The Holy League had suffered around 7,500 soldiers, sailors and rowers dead, but freed about as many Christian prisoners.  On the Christian side 20 galleys were destroyed and 30 were damaged so seriously that they had to be scuttled. One Venetian galley was the only one kept by the Turks. All others were abandoned by them and recaptured.

Prior to the battle, the Christians having lost twice before at this same location, made special processions in Rome to the Blessed Virgin. Christians were asked to pray the Rosary for victory.  The triumph was credited to Our Lady of the Rosary.

Battle_of_Lepanto_1571
-“Battle of Lepanto”, by Andrea Vicentino, 1603, oil on canvas, Palazzo Ducale, Venice

lepanto_3_1

Americans know that in 1492 Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue,” but how many know that in the same year the heroic Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the Moors in Grenada? Americans would also probably recognize 1588 as the year of the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Francis Drake and the rest of Queen Elizabeth’s pirates. It was a tragedy for the Catholic kingdom of Spain and a triumph for the Protestant British Empire, and the defeat determined the kind of history that would one day be taught in American schools: Protestant British history.

As a result, 1571, the year of the battle of Lepanto, the most important naval contest in human history, is not well known to Americans. October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrates the victory at Lepanto, the battle that saved the Christian West from defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

That this military triumph is also a Marian feast underscores our image of the Blessed Virgin prefigured in the Canticle of Canticles: “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” In October of 1564, the Viziers of the Divan of the Ottoman Empire assembled to urge their sultan to prepare for war with Malta. “Many more difficult victories have fallen to your scimitar than the capture of a handful of men on a tiny little island that is not well fortified,” they told him. Their words were flattering but true. During the five-decade reign of Soleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire grew to its fullest glory, encompassing the Caucuses, the Balkans, Anatolia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Soleiman had conquered Aden, Algiers, Baghdad, Belgrade, Budapest, Rhodes, and Temesvar. His war galleys terrorized not only the Mediterranean Sea, but the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf as well. His one defeat was at the gates of Vienna in 1529.

The Holy League

In a papacy of great achievements, the greatest came on March 7, 1571, on the feast of his fellow Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. At the Dominican Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, Pope Pius formed the Holy League. Genoa, the Papal States, and the Kingdom of Spain put aside their jealousies and pledged to assemble a fleet capable of confronting the sultan’s war galleys before the east coast of Italy became the next front in the war between the Christianity and Islam.

The man chosen by Pius V to serve as Captain General of the Holy League did not falter: Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son of the late Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and half-brother of Philip II, King of Spain. The young commander had distinguished himself in combat against Barbary corsairs and in the Morisco rebellion in Spain, a campaign in which he demonstrated his capacity for swift violence when the threat called for it and restraint when charity demanded it.

He was a great horseman, a great swordsman, and a great dancer. With charm, wit, and good looks in abundance, he was popular among the ladies of court. Since childhood he had cultivated a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He spoke Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish, and kept a pet marmoset and a lion cub that slept at the foot of his bed. He was twenty-four years old.

Taking the young warrior by the shoulders, Pius V looked Don John of Austria in the eye and declared, “The Turks, swollen by their victories, will wish to take on our fleet, and God—I have the pious presentiment—will give us victory. Charles V gave you life. I will give you honor and greatness. Go and seek them out!”

The Divine Breath

It was. At dawn on October 7, 1571, the Holy League rowed down the west coast of Greece and turned east into the Gulf of Patras. When the morning mist cleared, the Christians, rowing directly against the wind, saw the squadrons of the larger Ottoman fleet arrayed like a crescent from shore to shore, bearing down on them under full sail.

As the fleets grew closer, the Christians could hear the gongs and cymbals, drums and cries of the Turks. The men of the Holy League quietly pulled at their oars, the soldiers stood on the decks in silent prayer. Priests holding large crucifixes marched up and down the decks exhorting the men to be brave and hearing final confessions.

And, then the Blessed Mother intervened…

Our Lady of Victory,
Victorious daughter of the Father,
Victorious Mother of the Son,
Victorious Spouse of the Holy Spirit,
Victorious servant of the Holy Trinity
Victorious in your Immaculate Conception,
Victorious in crushing the serpent’s head,
Victorious over all the children of Adam,
Victorious over all enemies,
Victorious in your response to the Angel Gabriel,
Victorious in your wedding to St. Joseph,
Victorious in the birth of Christ,
Victorious in the flight to Egypt,
Victorious in your exile,
Victorious in your home at Nazareth,
Victorious in finding Christ in the temple,
Victorious in the mission of your Son,
Victorious in His passion and death,
Victorious in His Resurrection and Ascension,
Victorious in the Coming of the Holy Spirit,
Victorious in your sorrows and joys,
Victorious in your glorious Assumption,
Victorious in the angels who remained faithful,
Victorious in the happiness of the saints,
Victorious in the message of the prophets,
Victorious in the testimony of the patriarchs,
Victorious in the zeal of the apostles,
Victorious in the witness of the evangelists,
Victorious in the wisdom of the doctors,
Victorious in the deeds of the confessors,
Victorious in the triumph of all holy women,
Victorious in the faithfulness of the martyrs,
Victorious in your powerful intercession,
Victorious under your many titles,
Victorious at the moment of death,

Love & Marian victory,
Matthew

Sep 12 – Most Holy Name of Mary

most-holy-name-of-mary

“O name of Mary! Joy in the heart, honey in the mouth, melody to the ear of her devout clients!”
-St. Anthony of Padua +1231

In 1513, a feast of “The Holy Name of Mary” was granted by Papal indult [Pope Julius II] to the diocese of Cuenta in Spain. It was assigned with proper Office on September 15, the octave day of Our Lady’s Nativity. With the reform of the Breviary undertaken by Pope St. Pius V, the feast was abolished, only to be reinstituted by his successor, Pope Sixtus V, who changed the date to September 17. From there, the feast spread to the Archdiocese of Toledo [1622] and, eventually, to all of Spain and to the Kingdom of Naples [1671].

Throughout this time, permission to celebrate the feast was given to various religious orders in a prudent manner as has been the custom throughout Church history regarding feast-days, their dates, offices, liturgical expression, etc. However, this Feast of the Holy Name of Mary would one day be joyfully extended to the Universal Church, and this on account of rather dramatic circumstances involving one of Poland’s great military heroes, John Sobieski  [1629-1696].

While acting as field-marshal under King John Casimir, Sobieski had raised a force of 8,000 men and enough provisions to withstand a siege of Cossacks and Tartars, who were forced to retire unsuccessfully and at a loss. In 1672, under the reign of Michael Wisniowiecki, Sobieski engaged and defeated the Turkish army, who lost 20,000 men at Chocim.

When King Michael died, Sobieski, a beloved hero at that point, was crowned King of Poland. But, even before his coronation could take place, he would again engage and drive back the Turkish hordes in separate battles including the raising of the siege at Trembowla. Once crowned, he advanced to the Ruthenian provinces, where, having too few soldiers to attack the Turks, who outnumbered his men ten to one, he literally wore out the enemy, garrisoning his troops at Zurawno. Because of this heroic effort, he was able to regain, by treaty, a good portion of the Ukraine.

With both Turks and Poles weary from battle, peace reigned for a time . . . until the Turks set their sights on Austria, setting out through Hungary with an army of approximately 300,000 men. Fleeing from Austria, Emperor Leopold asked for Sobieski’s assistance, a plea which was seconded by the Papal Nuncio. In July 1683, the Grand Vizier Kara Mustapha had reached Vienna and laid siege to the city, which was being defended by only 15,000 men. Sobieski set out for Vienna in August, his forces marching behind the banner of the Blessed Virgin. Passing by the Sanctuary of Mary in Czestochowa, they implored Our Lady’s help and blessing.

Writing centuries later to the bishops of Poland, Pope Pius XII recalled the supplications of Sobieski to Mary at the Sanctuary on Jasna Gora [i.e., “Bright Hill”], the site of the Shrine:  “To the same Heavenly Queen, on Clear Mountain, the illustrious John Sobieski, whose eminent valor freed Christianity from the attacks of its old enemies, confided himself.”   [Letter, Cum iam lustri abeat, 1951]

In September, the men joined with the German troops under John George, Elector of Saxony, and Prince Charles of Lorraine. On the eighth day of the month, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, Sobieski prepared himself for the ensuing conflict by the reception of Holy Communion.

Battle was engaged before the walls of Vienna on September 12, 1683, with Sobieski seemingly put to flight by “the fierce Turkish forces. However, this retreat was a minor setback only. The Hussars renewed their assault and charged the Turks, this time sending the enemy into a retreat. The combat raged on, until Sobieski finally stormed the enemy camp. The Turkish forces were routed, Vienna was saved, and Sobieski sent the “Standard of the Prophet” to Pope Innocent XI along with the good news.

In a letter to the Pontiff, Sobieski summed up his victory in these words: Veni, vidi, Deus vicit —–“I came, I saw, God conquered!” To commemorate this glorious victory, and render thanksgiving to God and honor to Our Lady for their solicitude in the struggle, Pope Innocent XI extended “The Feast of the Holy Name of Mary” to the Universal Church. Although the feast was originally celebrated on the Sunday after the Nativity of Mary, Pope St. Pius X [+1914] decreed that it be celebrated on September 12, in honor of the victory of the Catholic forces under John Sobieski.

The history of this feast reminds us in some ways of that of “Our Lady of the Rosary,” which was instituted to celebrate and commemorate the victory of the Catholic forces over the Turkish navy at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571: “And thus Christ’s faithful warriors, prepared to sacrifice their life and blood for the welfare of their Faith and their country, proceeded undauntedly to meet their foe near the Gulf of Corinth; while those who were unable to join them formed a band of pious supplicants, who called on Mary and, as one, saluted Her again and again in the words of the Rosary, imploring Her to grant victory to their companions engaged in battle. Our sovereign Lady did grant Her aid.” [Pope Leo XIII, Supremi Apostolatus, 1883]

“Lord our God, when your Son was dying on the altar of the cross, He gave us as our mother the one He had chosen to be His own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our mother, with confidence in her protection may receive strength and comfort in all our needs”
-Marian Sacramentary, Mass for the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Love,
Matthew

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord – what if she had said “no”?

fraangelico_annunciation
-Fra Angelico, Annunciation, 1450

“The question may strike you as irreverent.  How dare I suggest that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, Co-Redemptrix of mankind, could have left us in the lurch like that?

But what if she had?

Could she have said no?  You might say that of course she couldn’t, she was far too holy — but you would be guilty of demeaning and dangerous sentimentality.

It is demeaning because it turns Our Lady from a free human being into a sanctified automaton.  The whole glory of the Annunciation is that Mary, the second Eve, could have said “no” to God but she said “yes” instead, as can we all. Love is only love if it is freely given from a free will.  Anything less is just simply not love.  That is what we celebrate, that is what we praise her for; and rightly so.

This sentimental view is dangerous too.  If we believe that the most important decision in the history of the world was in fact inevitable, that it couldn’t have been otherwise, then that means it was effortless. Now we have a marvelous excuse for laziness.  Next time we’re faced with a tough moral decision, we needn’t worry about doing what is right.  Just drift, and God will make sure that whatever choice we make is the right one.  If God really wants us to do something he’ll sweep us off our feet the way he did Mary, and if he chooses not to, it’s hardly our fault, is it?

So Mary could have said “no” to Gabriel.  What if she had?  He couldn’t just go and ask someone else, like some sort of charity collector.  With all the genealogies and prophecies in the Bible, there was only one candidate.  It’s an alarming thought.

Ultimately, of course, God would have done something: the history of salvation is the history of Him never abandoning His people however pig-headed they were.  But God has chosen to work through human history. If the first attempt at redemption took four thousand years to prepare, from the Fall to the Annunciation, how many tens of thousands of years would the next attempt have taken?

Even if the world sometimes makes us feel like cogs in a machine, each of us is unique and each of us is here for a purpose: just because it isn’t as spectacular a purpose as Mary’s, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. When we fail to seek our vocation, or put off fulfilling some part of it, we try to justify ourselves by saying that someone else will do it better, that God will provide, that it doesn’t really matter.  But we are lying. However small a part I have to play, the story of the Annunciation tells me it is my part and no-one else can do it.

Faced with the enormity of her choice, how was Mary able to decide?  If she said “no”, unredeemed generations would toil on under the burden of sin.  If she said “yes”, she herself would suffer, and so would her Son; but both would be glorified.  Millions of people not yet born would have Heaven open to them; but millions of others would suffer oppression and death in her Son’s name.  The stakes were almost infinite.

You might say that Mary didn’t worry about all this, just obeyed God; but I don’t believe it. It was clear from Scripture she was no dummy.  What God wanted was not Mary’s unthinking obedience but her full and informed consent as the representative of the entire human race.  The two greatest miracles of the Annunciation are these: that God gave Mary the wisdom to know the consequences of her decision, and that he gave her the grace not to be overwhelmed by that knowledge.

When we come to an important decision in our lives, we can easily find our minds clouded by the possible consequences, or, even more, by partial knowledge of them.  How can we ever move, when there is so much good and evil whichever way we go?  The Annunciation gives us the answer.  God’s grace will give us the strength to move, even if the fate of the whole world is hanging in the balance. After all, God does not demand that our decisions should be the correct ones (assuming that there even is such a thing), only that they should be rightly made.

There is one more truth that the Annunciation teaches us, and it is so appalling that I can think of nothing uplifting to say about it that will take the sting away: perhaps it is best forgotten, because it tells us more about God than we are able to understand.  The Almighty Father creates heaven and earth, the sun and all the stars; but when He really wants something done, He comes, the Omnipotent and Omniscient, to one of His poor, weak creatures — and He asks.

And, day by day, He keeps on asking us.”

-by Martin Kochanski, Universalis Publishing, www.universalis.com

annunciation_philippe_de_champaigne
-Philippe de Champaigne, The Annunciation, ca.1644, oil on panel, 28 x 28.75 inches (71 x 73 cm.), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Blessed Solemnity of the Annunciation!
Love,
Matthew

Aug 1 – St Alphonsus Mary de Liguori, CSsR, (1696-1787), Bishop & Doctor of the Church, “Doctor Zelantissimus”, Doctor Most Zealous

st-alphonsus-liguori

Born to the nobility, Alphonsus Liguori was a child prodigy, was extremely well-educated, and received his doctorate in law from the University of Naples at age 16. He had his own practice by age 21, and was soon one of the leading lawyers in Naples, though he never attended court without having attended Mass first.

He loved music, could play the harpsichord, and often attended the opera, though he frequently listened without bothering to watch the over-done staging. As he matured and learned more and more of the world, he liked it less and less, and finally felt a call to religious life.

As a Neapolitan lawyer, he lost a court case in a spectacular fashion, when it turned out that a key document in his case had been misinterpreted by him and in fact proved his opponent’s case instead.

He declined an arranged marriage, studied theology, and was ordained at age 29. Preacher and home missioner around Naples. Noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. Writer on asceticism, theology, and history; master theologian, he was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious.

He founded the Redemptoristines women’s order in Scala in 1730, and founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Liguorians; Redemptorists) at Scala, Italy in 1732. The Redemptorists proved to be a quarrelsome congregation: their formal establishment had been delayed by more than a decade because of internal dissension.

Appointed bishop of Saint Agata dei Gotti by Pope Clement XIII in 1762, Liguori worked to reform the clergy and revitalize the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. He was afflicted with severe rheumatism, and often could barely move or raise his chin from his chest. In 1775 he resigned his see due to his health, and went into what he thought was a prayerful retirement.

In 1777 the royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed in 1773.

Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in thelogy, and his skills as a lawyer, Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king’s approval. However, by this point Alphonsus was nearly blind, and was tricked into giving his approval to a revised Rule for the Congregation, one that suited the king and the anti-clerical government.

When Pope Pius VI saw the changes, he condemned it, and removed Alphonsus from his position as leader of the Order. The Redemptorists split into two congregations, both of whom rejected him. This caused Alphonsus a crisis in confidence and faith that took years to overcome. However, by the time of his death he had returned to faith and peace.

Alphonsus vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life, and lived that way for over 90 years. Declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.

When he was bishop, one of Alphonsus’s priests led a worldly life, and resisted all attempts to change. He was summoned to Alphonsus, and at the entrance to the bishop’s study he found a large crucifix laid on the threshold. When the priest hesitated to step in, Alphonsus quietly said, “Come along, and be sure to trample it underfoot. It would not be the first time you have placed Our Lord beneath your feet.”

amdl

Novena Prayer to Saint Alphonsus Liguori

GLORIOUS Saint Alphonsus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, devoted servant of our Lord and loving child of Mary, I invoke you as a Saint in heaven. I give myself to your protection that you may always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of holiness and salvation. Aid me in observing the duties of my state of life. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life after your own example.  Great lover of the Blessed Sacrament and the Passion of Jesus Christ, teach me to love Holy Mass and Holy Communion as the source of grace and holiness.  Give me a tender devotion to the Passion of my Redeemer.

Promoter of the truth of Christ in your preaching and writing, give me a greater knowledge and appreciation of the Divine truths.

Gentle father of the poor and sinners, help me to imitate your charity toward others in word and deed.

Consoler of the suffering, help me to bear my daily cross patiently in imitation of your own patience in your long and painful illness and to resign myself to the Will of God.

Good Shepherd of the flock of Christ, obtain for me the grace of being a true child of Holy Mother Church.

Saint Alphonsus, I humbly implore your powerful intercession for obtaining from the Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare. I recommend to you in particular this favor: (Mention your request).

I have great confidence in your prayers. I earnestly trust that if it is God’s holy Will, my petition will be granted through your intercession for me at the throne of God.

Saint Alphonsus, pray for me and for those I love. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, do not abandon us in our needs. May we experience the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.

Prayer

HEAVENLY Father, You continually build up Your Church by the lives of Your Saints. Give us grace to follow Saint Alphonsus in his loving concern for the salvation of people and so come to share his reward in heaven. Walking in the footsteps of this devoted servant of Yours, may we be consumed with zeal for souls and attain the reward he enjoys in Your Kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayer of Saint Alphonsus Liguori to the Blessed Virgin

Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin! O my Mother! Thou who art the Mother of my Lord, the Queen of the world, the advocate, hope, and refuge of sinners! I, the most wretched among them, now come to thee. I worship thee, great Queen, and give thee thanks for the many favors thou hast bestowed on me in the past; most of all do I thank thee for having saved me from hell, which I had so often deserved. I love thee, Lady most worthy of all love, and, by the love which I bear thee, I promise ever in the future to serve thee, and to do what in me lies to win others to thy love. In thee I put all my trust, all my hope of salvation. Receive me as thy servant, and cover me with the mantle of thy protection, thou who art the Mother of mercy! And since thou hast so much power with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the grace ever to overcome them. From thee I ask a true love of Jesus Christ, and the grace of a happy death. O my Mother! By thy love for God I beseech thee to be at all times my helper, but above all at the last moment of my life. Leave me not until thou seest me safe in heaven, there for endless ages to bless thee and sing thy praises. Such is my hope. Amen.  -Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

“When the devil wishes to make himself master of a soul, he seeks to make it give up devotion to Mary.” -St Alphonsus Maria de Liguouri

“Let us will always and ever only what God wills; for in so doing, He will press us to His heart.” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends.” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

“My beloved Jesus, Your face was beautiful before You began this journey; but, now, it no longer appears beautiful and is disfigured with wounds and blood. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful when it received Your grace in Baptism; but I have since disfigured it with my sins. You alone, My Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. Do this by the merits of Your Passion; and then do with me as You will.” -St. Alphonsus Liguori 

“He who trusts himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things.” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

quote-true-he-is-infinite-majesty-but-he-is-also-infinite-goodness-and-infinite-love-there-can-be-no-alphonsus-liguori-112397

Love,
Matthew